Oyster mushrooms, blewits, porcini, chanterelles, morels, button mushrooms, shiitake... Worldwide, there are nearly one million known species of fungi. Anthropologists have also found evidence that virtually all ancient civilizations included mushrooms in their diet, right from the very dawn of humanity. In the 1st century, Pliny the Elder had even drawn up a very precise classification of edible and poisonous species! In France, although it remains easy to pick mushrooms in the woods and forests in autumn, more and more varieties are being cultivated and are available all year round.
The mushroom is neither animal nor plant; it belongs to the separate, third category of fungi. A biological specificity that gives them added value as compared to other "vegetables". Whilst they are growing, mushrooms synthesize additional enzymes that enable them to stock a wide range of antioxidant minerals. The result is that mushrooms are particularly rich in essential minerals such as copper and selenium, together with zinc and potassium giving mushrooms not only excellent anti-inflammatory properties but also making them an essential ally for your immune defenses (1). And most fungi also contain active antibacterial agents (2).
Mushrooms are excellent for your skin tone and your hair! Copper has a positive impact on the pigmentation of the skin and the hair and helps to keep both healthy (3). Mushrooms are rich in insoluble fiber, that facilitates intestinal transit. Like other fruits and vegetables, they contain antioxidant flavonoid acids, essential for the body to fight the free radicals that cause oxidative stress, the cause of cell degeneration. Regularly eating mushrooms could combat some cancers, such as breast cancer (4). These antioxidants are also the guarantors of good cardiovascular health.
The delicious Japanese shiitake mushroom, for example, is said to have a very positive impact on levels of insulin and cholesterol in the blood, thus limiting the symptoms of chronic diseases such as diabetes and certain cardiovascular conditions (5).
How to store and cook mushrooms
More and more varieties of mushroom produced by organic farming methods are available on the French market: so if you have the opportunity, make the most of these to limit as far as possible the ingestion of pesticides. Although dried or canned mushrooms have equivalent nutritional properties, it is always better to give priority to fresh mushrooms (6). If you have the slightest doubt about the wild mushrooms you pick, we strongly recommend checking with your pharmacist to avoid the risk of poisoning.
Cook fresh mushrooms quickly, they do not keep well after the fourth day after purchase. Each mushroom variety has its own recipe! The delicate flavors of the mushroom are perfect to add to stews but they can also be eaten raw, plain, in salads. Don't hesitate to cook your mushrooms in a wok to give them that appetizing, almost meltingly soft look. Mushroom soup is light and warming, perfect for the long winter months. Well seasoned, with coconut milk or a little garlic, it will delight both young and old. Try something different with your shiitake and simmer them gently in a tasty stock with noodles, small vegetables and coriander. Tip: larger white mushrooms are best stuffed with a homemade filling and finished in the oven with melted cheese over the top.
References : (1) Dai X, Stanilka JM, Rowe CA, et al. Consuming Lentinula edodes (Shiitake) Mushrooms Daily Improves Human Immunity: A Randomized Dietary Intervention in Healthy Young Adults. J Am Coll Nutr. 2015;34(6):478-87. (2) Hearst, Rachel, et al. "An examination of antibacterial and antifungal properties of constituents of Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) and Oyster (Pleurotus ostreatus) mushrooms." Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice 15.1 (2009): 5-7. (3) Flesch, Peter. "The role of copper in mammalian pigmentation." Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine 70.1 (1949): 79-80 (4) Grube BJ, Eng ET, et al. White button mushroom phytochemicals inhibit aromatase activity and breast cancer cell proliferation. J Nutr 2001 December;131(12):3288-93. (5) Choi, Y., et al. "Influence of heat treatment on the antioxidant activities and polyphenolic compounds of Shiitake (Lentinus edodes) mushroom." Food Chemistry 99.2 (2006): 381-387. (6) Dikeman CL, Bauer LL, et al. Effects of stage of maturity and cooking on the chemical composition of select mushroom varieties. J Agric Food Chem 2005 February 23;53(4):1130-8.